A top executive from President Trump’s real estate business reached out to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s personal spokesman during the 2016 campaign to ask for help with a stalled Trump development project in Moscow, according to documents turned over to House investigators Monday.
Michael Cohen, Trump’s longtime lawyer and executive vice president for the Trump Organization, sent the email about a Trump Tower development to Dmitry Peskov in January 2016, according to The Washington Post.
“Over the past few months I have been working with a company based in Russia regarding the development of a Trump Tower — Moscow project in Moscow City,” Cohen wrote Peskov, a person familiar with the email told the Post. “Without getting into lengthy specifics, the communication between our two sides has stalled.”
“As this project is too important, I am hereby requesting your assistance. I respectfully request someone, preferably you, contact me so that I might discuss the specifics as well as arranging meetings with the appropriate individuals. I thank you in advance for your assistance and look forward to hearing from you soon,” Cohen wrote.
At the time, the Republican primary campaign was well underway. Trump surprised observers during the campaign with his unusually warm rhetoric about Putin.
Cohen told congressional investigators that he did not receive a response from Peskov and the deal fell through two weeks later. He characterized the deal as nothing than a routine business proposal.
“It should come as no surprise that, over four decades, the Trump Organization has received and reviewed countless real estate development opportunities, both domestic and international,” he said in a statement to the Post. “The Trump Moscow proposal was simply one of many development opportunities that the Trump Organization considered and ultimately rejected.”
But the revelation of the request — perhaps the most well-documented confirmation yet of a direct interaction between a senior Trump aide and a senior Putin aide — comes as Trump’s business ties to Russia continue to be under intense scrutiny.
The Justice Department, along with the House and Senate Intelligence committees, is now investigating the Trump campaign’s ties to Moscow, under the authority of special counsel Robert Mueller, as part of the federal investigation into Russian interference in the election.
Trump has repeatedly said he has no business ties to Russia. In May, the White House released a letter from two of his lawyers saying that his income tax returns do not show income from or debt owed to Russian sources — with the exception of $95 million paid by a Russian billionaire for a Trump-owned estate in Florida and $12.2 million in payments related to holding the Trump-owned Miss Universe pageant in Moscow in 2013.
Cohen had no formal role in Trump’s campaign, but sometimes appeared on television or spoke to reporters on behalf of the candidate.
At the time of the emails, Cohen had been in negotiations with Felix Sater, a Russian-American businessman who was serving as a broker for the Trump Organization, to attempt to build a Trump Tower in the Russian capital. The negotiations were ongoing from September 2015 through the end of January 2016, according to the Post.
Cohen told congressional investigators that the project was envisioned as a licensing deal, in which a Moscow-based developed would have paid Trump for the use of his name. Trump signed a letter of intent with the developer, I.C. Expert Investment Company, on Oct. 28, 2015, Cohen said.
In a series of emails to Cohen written in 2015, Sater argued that building a Trump Tower in Moscow would benefit the businessman’s candidacy, The New York Times reported earlier on Monday.
“I will get Putin on this program and we will get Donald elected,” Sater wrote on Nov. 3, 2015, almost exactly a year before Election Day. “Our boy can become president of the USA and we can engineer it. I will get all of Putins team to buy in on this, I will manage this process.”